Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Review: Tord Gustavsen Trio - Being There

Album number three on ECM for pianist Tord Gustavsen’s trio, and it’s his best yet. Still composing and playing in a sparse and stripped down manner, Gustavsen continues to favour quietly intense and introspectively cool in place of any ego-lead shows of virtuosity, or indeed anything above a mid-paced tempo, that in a way Gustavsen is perhaps the perfect artist and foil for label owner and producer Manfred Eicher, and his singular vision.

Here ‘Karmosin’ showcases a masterclass in rhythm and melody, all the while maintaining that uniquely strong Scandinavian atmosphere, where at the other end of the spectrum ‘Blessed Feet’ shows the trios own distinctive take on blues, and ‘Around You’ is just pure beauty. And yet, everything here maintains a fine and cohesive whole, such is the clarity of intent of the trio – less a piano payer backed by a rhythm section, and more three players all leading and exchanging ideas between each other.

Better still, of the many piano trios out there, Gustavsen’s is probably, alongside E.S.T., the most song focused, with ‘Being There’ being the best example of this. Thirteen tracks, with most falling under the five minute mark, each is a concise and full piece that lets its charms and strengths play out unrushed, yet without ever meandering or dragging.

For the fans of his earlier work, here Gustavsen rewards their loyalty with an even stronger effort, whilst newcomers should be well-served by this winning albums crystal-like sound and its langorous yet intense musical landscapes. Consistently beautiful, Tord Gustavsen has here created a new piano trio record that can sit proudly alongside the established classics of the genre.


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